In the digital age, companies and businesses can no longer afford to rely on the conventional management methods for their sales executives and managers. Legacy functions and software are becoming increasingly insufficient for handling sales processes like lead management, inter-connectivity within the sales force, accessing the product catalogue and current promotions and offers, sales performance monitoring, etc.
Sales force automation (SFA) is the new frontier for effective sales force management. As the name suggests, sales force automation aims to improve the efficiency of a sales team by helping them automate their repetitive and time-consuming tasks and processes with a software tool. More modern SFA systems, however, are not simply concerned with handling the sales processes, but also help in managing and analyzing the outputs and the feedback.
Although some of the SFA elements may be similar to those present within a customer relationship management (CRM) system, they cannot be used interchangeably. One of the CRM modules pertains to sales, while SFA is more specialized in handling the sales activities. That being said, a business can indeed adopt both these systems simultaneously and integrate them to ensure overall efficiency in their business.
The sales team is responsible for bringing in more customers for the business. This process starts by the sales team retrieving all the potential leads that are generated by the marketing team. With a substantial lead list, the team proceeds to organize them based on certain predetermined criteria so that analysis and management can become easier.
For instance, leads can be categorized as qualified, interested or contacted based on how far they are in the sales pipeline. With SFA, automatically schedule tasks and events like sales meetings, follow-up messages, and emails. It can also track a sales executive’s daily plans and activities and set reminders and alarms for delivering on their commitments.
Effective management of leads requires an appropriate tool for data visualization and analysis. A sales funnel is instrumental for understanding the distribution of leads and their impact – how many leads are still unqualified, how many have been qualified, how many have been contacted, how many are more curious, how much revenue can be potentially generated from a lead on successful conversion, etc.
SFA collects all this information from the sales database and presents it in a convenient and accessible manner. The sales funnel visually depicts how far along the leads are in the sales pipeline, allowing a sales team to plan ahead and make informed decisions on who to follow-up with and when to approach them.
Sales personnel, before attending to a lead, must get a clear view of the product or service offerings and be notified of any ongoing offers and discounts, so that they can convey it to the lead. This requires a system where information is stored and updated centrally, ensuring that each and every sales executive is moving forward with the same data.
Most SFA systems are equipped with cloud capabilities, which give the sales team quick and remote access to their product database on their mobile device, even while they’re on-the-go or out in the field. Sales managers can instantly inform their executives with pricing updates, marketing material, and research reports, making it easier for the executives to make the most appropriate proposals and quotes without a lot of back-and-forth for approval from the managers and reducing response times.
Sales personnel can do much better with real-time access to their customer orders. This helps them monitor their inventory and deliver on their promises made to the customers. Once the customer has confirmed a purchase, SFA can automatically generate an order and push it forward in the pipeline for processing. It can also display order information such as time for processing, delivery status, and receipts.
With the aid of this tool, the sales team can help their customers with information regarding their order, without having to search through a pile of documents to retrieve the relevant information. This improves the customer’s experience and ensures their satisfaction and loyalty.
It is important for a sales manager to understand how well their executives are doing on the field. To this end, they need to track every executive’s activities, such as leads met with, follow-ups made, sales meetings scheduled and delivered, and finally revenue generated from the sale.
An SFA system automatically obtains this information from each executive and organizes it into clear metrics, so that the managers can gain actionable insight from it and help improve an executive’s performance by taking corrective measures.